Wild Things! Vacheron Constantin Introduces One-Of-A-Kind Les Cabinotiers Mécaniques Sauvages Watches
There are watch connoisseurs in this world who would give a kingdom for a modern bespoke timepiece possessing a grand Swiss name like Vacheron Constantin.
Fortunately for solvent enthusiasts who are so inclined, Vacheron Constantin actually offers just such a service to put collectors of the modern world on par with famous New York banker Henry Graves, Jr. and his “collecting adversary” automobile manufacturer James Ward Packard, who were avid enthusiasts of bespoke Vacheron Constantin timepieces.
Vacheron Constantin’s made-to-order Atelier Cabinotiers
Vacheron Constantin’s master watchmakers have created unique watches according to the whims of their clientele since the company’s establishment in 1755. Over these many years, they have spent endless hours evolving watch designs and components, adding a guilloché dial here and an enameled dial there, Roman numerals, center seconds, chronograph functions, and, of course, personalized engraving to create perfect bespoke timepieces for their demanding clients.
Vacheron Constantin has offered a formal service called Atelier Cabinotiers since 2007, which proposes four general areas of customization: watch case, movement/complications, dial/hands, and strap/bracelet. Once the client makes his or her choices, the watchmakers do the rest, creating and hand-finishing a personalized watch for the client in accord with the company’s long tradition.
The word “cabinotiers” is derived from the craftsman working in Geneva on the banks of the Rhône in the eighteenth century. To take advantage of the natural light before electricity, most workshops at that time were on the top floors of the buildings. Because the spaces were often small, they were called “cabinets,” which is where the term “cabinotiers” originates.
Europe’s dignitaries generally personally visited the workshops to order their special timepieces. These days, it’s much easier: clients only need to visit the brand’s Atelier Cabinotiers custom workshop or its online presence.
Endless customization possibilities
Ideas for a customized watch begin and end in the client’s head, developed from his or her narrative alone. This is perhaps best exemplified by the most complicated watch in the world, Reference 57260, which was crafted at the behest of a client and introduced to the general public in 2015 with much fanfare.
This outstanding piece of haute horlogerie highlights that the Cabinotiers special order workshop is up for just about every technical challenge.
Once all of the unique watch’s details have been ascertained and feasibility confirmed, Vacheron Constantin produces three examples of the specified movement: one is sold to the owner, while the other two remain with Vacheron Constantin along with the rights to the whole development.
This practice preserves documentation and reserve purposes and also allows the manufacture to be in a position to help at a moment’s notice should something happen to the owner’s unique watch.
The workshop’s specialists guarantee that the watch in question is the only one of its kind in the world with a certified seal.
One-of-a-kind Vacheron Constantin Cabinotiers pieces: Mécaniques Sauvages
Vacheron Constantin has just revealed a collection of one-of-a-kind Cabinotiers timepieces whose artistic motifs allow them to be logically grouped together under one theme: wild animals (“animaux sauvages”) adorn the dials and/or cases of these masterpieces, which the brand has dubbed Mécaniques Sauvages.
Interestingly, when these pieces were made they had not been commissioned by clients; these were commissioned by the manufacture itself. When a client orders a unique piece, the waiting time can be years. So the powers that be decided to invest in making some of the artists’ favorites and then show them to the clients, which essentially meant that a collector would able to acquire one of these unique pieces without the usual wait.
I was able to recently preview some of these before they were picked up by their new owners. And they are definitively worth seeing. Here is a selection.
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon Snake
Six patents were awarded for this tourbillon derived from the magnificent Reference 57260, one that offers a multi-axis whirlwind for controlling the precision of the timekeeping functions outfitted with a spherical balance spring.
The tourbillon cage, made of aluminum and fully visible on the left side of the dial, was christened the “Armillary” because it reminded the watchmakers of the circles and rings attached to the scientific instrument known as the armillary sphere or spherical astrolabe.
Aside from the spherical balance spring, diamond pallet jewels add to the mechanical importance of this exquisite element, while a silicon pallet fork and a silicon escape wheel ensure the necessary geometry for precision.
The dial design in interesting: the tourbillon takes up the entire left side of the viewing area, while the timekeeping functions including instantaneous retrograde hours and minutes make up the other half. While the look takes some getting used to, it illustrates the importance placed on having both features front and center.
An in-house engraver created the three-dimensional snake around the red gold case band, whose surfaces are both matte- and high-polished to give extraordinary life to the reptile’s scales.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon Snake
Case: 45 x 20.12 mm, red gold
Movement: manual winding Caliber 1990 with one-minute “Armillary” double-axis tourbillon, 299 components, approximately 65-hour power reserve, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency, Geneva Seal
Functions: retrograde hours and minutes
Price: not disclosed
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Mysterious Animals
Caliber 2460 G4 (which stands for “four guichets,” French for windows) arrived in 2005 for use in watches in honor of Vacheron Constantin’s 250-year celebration (see How Vacheron Constantin Celebrated Its 250th Anniversary In 2005). These watches were distinctly conceived to show off the traditional artisanal skills of the region and one of its most celebrated watchmakers.
The introduction of this caliber also marked the debut of Vacheron Constantin’s “dragging disk” technology, which has since quite often been used in exceptional timepieces embellished with handcrafted decoration such as enamel, engraving, and guilloche. We often see it used for example to power the extremely limited editions arriving every year in honor of Chinese New Year (see Happy Chinese New Year With 8 Dog-Themed Lucky Watches).
Automatic Caliber 2460 G4 contains both dragging and jumping disks on clear display in each corner of the dial to indicate hours, minutes, day, and date.
On one of the Mécanique Sauvages unique pieces (pictured above), a tiger emerges from a bamboo forest, its head appearing at the center of a dial that is entirely hand-engraved in intaglio style. The tiger is sculpted in 18-karat white gold, while the surrounding bamboo stalks are sculpted in 18-karat yellow gold.
Another version finds a sculpted, three-dimensional parrot visible at the center of the dial, emerging from an exotic forest of leaves. Yet another unique piece (not shown here) involves monkeys and banana plants.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Mysterious Animals Tiger
Case: 40 x 12.4 mm, platinum
Dial: hand-engraved 18-karat yellow gold and white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 2460 G4, 40-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, Seal of Geneva
Functions: hours, minutes; date, weekday (all shown in windows)
Price: not disclosed
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Grisaille
There is a very exciting artisan at home within Vacheron Constantin’s workshops, one of only a very few in the world to command the art of grisaille enamel.
This very rare technique consists of coating a gold dial blank with a uniform dark brown, black, or blue layer of enamel and applying a rare white enamel over it called Blanc de Limoges to create subtle shades of grey, brown, and white as well as shading effects. Blanc de Limoges enamel is no longer freely available to purchase according to Vacheron Constantin.
And this artisan has now completed a series of six unique pieces in the technique featuring six different wild animals. This may not sound like much output, but understand that each dial takes this artisan one entire month to complete.
The animals are so realistic and so three-dimensional that they seem to just pop right out of the watch. Each separate hair (created using a needle in conjunction with a one-hair brush) is visible to the eye and almost palpable in its depth.
Each of the six animals – falcon, goat, lynx, cobra, rhinoceros, and elephant – were chosen by the artisan for symbolic value and to illustrate the precision of the art form.
Automatic Caliber 2460 SC, stamped with the Geneva Seal, is only visible when the owner opens the white gold officer’s case back on the back of the watch. This case back, which functions much like a lid, can also be personalized with engraving, guilloche, or another art form.
This watch is so svelte and perfect in its proportions that even with the additional officer’s case back, it only measures 9.2 mm in height.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Grisaille Falcon
Case: 40 x 9.2 mm, white gold
Dial: hand-applied high-fire Grisaille enamel; one dial takes one month to complete
Movement: automatic Caliber 2460 SC, 40-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, Geneva Seal
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: not disclosed
For more information on commissioning your own unique Cabinotiers timepiece by Vacheron Constantin, please visit www.ateliercabinotiers.vacheron-constantin.com/en/atelier-cabinotiers-custom-watches.
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Also published on Medium.